I’ve always had a soft spot for Volvo, that’s probably why I’ve owned two and chose European Delivery on one of them. But Volvo has a problem. It’s not the product. It’s not even the brand positioning. It’s a lack of advertising and visibility. Let’s dive deep into my mind as I pontificate about Volvo’s destiny.
The following article is long. Some of you will decry it as fiction outside of the space this website normally reserves for stories and others of you will lament its presence on what is supposed to be an automotive news website. Maybe you are right, but the truth is that I read a lot and my mind is constantly pulling at a million disparate threads of information and tying them together in ways that make unusual patterns. Some of these things have coalesced this week into the following piece and so I have offered it to the editors to see if they think it has a place on our esteemed pages. If you are seeing it, then they have given it the green light and all I can do is ask you to indulge me.
Articles about the future used to show up in the newspapers and the magazines with surprising regularity when I was a kid. They were great reading and were almost always accompanied by large, full color illustrations by noted artists like Syd Mead that fleshed out the words out surprising detail. In virtually every case, despite much of the turmoil going on in our country in the 1970s, those articles painted a picture of a better, brighter future. Now more than a third of the way through the second decade of the 21st century, we all know that things didn’t turn out quite the way those old articles imagined but that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to predict what is coming. I can’t help but think that a better tomorrow really is right around the corner. (Read More…)
Once I get to ranting on the subject, I’ll fulminate that the true modern era of the automobile didn’t start until about 1990, when carburetors and points ignitions finally disappeared from new cars sold in the United States. Before and after that point, however, a lot of progress— and backsliding— has taken place in the automotive industry. Which brings up the question: what ten-year period, starting with Karl Benz’s Patent Motorwagen in 1886, saw the most improvement, innovation, whatever you want to call it, in the automotive world? (Read More…)
As a rally driver, you have a navigator in the other seat. What do you need him for? He knows the road ahead and tells you how to drive in the fastest and most efficient manner. As in “you want to take that turn at around 80. When you come out of the turn, stay in low, there’s another sharp right turn right behind that.” Or fewer words to that effect.
When I met Jutta Kleinschmidt, Volkswagen’s Touareg Dakar Rallye driver, she had this lithe Italian woman as a Navigator. “She’s a skinny little thing,” said Frau Kleinschmidt in her usual don’t-mess-with-me style, “but at least she doesn’t weigh much.”
BMW will do one better. Soon, BMW will give you a navigator that weighs just about nothing. As for the skinny little thing – let’s just say that you won’t be interested in the navigator of someone who lists her homepage here. But let’s not get sidetracked. (Read More…)
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said in a speech to a joint session of Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” On 21 July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. The Apollo 11 crew returned safely to Earth on 24 July. Three years later, the Moon had its last visitors. The Sea of Tranquility lives up to its name.
In last week’s State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama’s set an even more audacious goal. (Read More…)
The majority of car makers the world over think that for the next five years, electric cars will remain too expensive to stand a chance in the mass market. Their saving grace must be government subsidies. Without government money, EVs are priced out of the market. (Read More…)
GM China, our recently no longer so reliable oracle for the Chinese market, raised its November sales by 11 percent, compared to an absolutely batty November 2009. 11 percent are not the same growth as the 109.5 percent GM China had recorded in last year’s November, but how much battier do you expect them to get? The more meaningful number is that for the first 11 months of 2010: From January through November, GM’s China sales jumped 33 percent to a mind-blowing 2.17 million units. GM China will most likely close out the year in the 2.35 to 2.4m area – this is higher than the total sales of some of Europe’s larger countries, and definitely a whole lot more than GM sells back home. Better get used to it. (Read More…)
Science fiction author Charlie Stross recently penned a blog piece on the future impact of autonomously computer-driven cars. Let’s call them “robocars.” I’ve pondered this before and Stross’s post is the perfect jumping-off point for a discussion of the many issues standing between science fiction and the robocar future. Let’s take a look.
One by one, European countries will scrap their scrappage incentives this year (if they haven’t already.) With predictable results: Without the governmental amphetamine, the market will be down. How much? (Read More…)
Well, Lear’s vapor turbine never ended up being built in the millions by 1975… but the prediction that electric cars would be best for taxis, delivery vehicles, or a family’s second car for commuting and shopping seems to be coming true. Oh, and we all know how the lead or no-lead fuel debate worked out. But with mass-market electric cars getting closer to reality every day, it’s fun to look back at where we once thought technology might be going. This copy of “Cars of the Future” certainly doesn’t fail to entertain on that count.
Every good turn deserves another, and in response to America’s bailout of its most vulnerable automakers, the EU is investing in its least viable automakers. Having invested $547m in Saab, the European Investment Bank is announcing a $458m loan to Jaguar Land Rover, the troubled luxury divisions of Tata Motors. Automotive News [sub] reports that JLR will use the cash to develop micro- and full-hybrid drivetrains and generally improve fuel efficiency. Does this include a rumored Jaguar gas turbine hybrid? Officials won’t give details, but Tata’s Ravi Kant does go on the record to say
This will support the progress of turnaround in Jaguar Land Rover’s business in challenging market conditions, alongside cost cutting measures, increase of volumes and the improved margins strategy currently being implemented by Jaguar Land Rover
Which leads us to believe that this won’t do anything to prevent the planned shutdown of at least one of JLR’s UK plants.